When Sarah asked me last week if I’d come up to Asheville on Friday for a practice run, I said that of course I would, and I was happy to do it. She starts back to work on Friday the 13th, (what timing) and since I’ll be the designated babysitter for Fridays and Saturdays for the next good while, I figured that giving her a day to get everything straight was a smart idea. She could put on work clothes, gather up all her nursing pump parts, pack a lunch, and leave Josiah with me for eight or nine hours or so, just to get the feel of things. Maybe it’d help make Friday easier to take- not such a shock to the system. Besides, who am I to pass up a chance to spend the day with my cutest, sweetest (and only) grand baby?!
It’s all for Sarah, I’d thought, which, hours later, struck me as hilarious as I wrestled her stroller in her apartment parking lot Friday morning, sweating (isn’t October in the mountains supposed to be cool?) and fighting back the not so nice words that tried to escape out my mouth. Josiah started to fuss in his carseat, so I started to sing to him “Skip skip skip to my Lou” (I guess I need a refresher on baby songs) until I realized I was being watched. “I can’t seem to figure out how to open it,” I said to the man across from me, changing his oil.
He shook his head as if I were embarrassing him. The old lady parked beside him on the sidewalk in a wheel chair clapped her hands for me. I suppose I was the morning’s entertainment.
Oh well. I guess I needed the practice run too. After I hauled Josiah in his car seat, the diaper bag, and my purse back up the two flights of stairs, I found a youtube video on how to open a Chicco Activ3 stroller. And I discovered that I am now an official old person because I could never figure out how to turn on their television (which, in my defense, they operate through a PlayStation, so how am I supposed to understand that?) By next Friday, Sarah has promised to make me a list of directions complete with sketches. Just call me Granny.
Sarah and Paul will teach me and Josiah will teach me. And so will the internet, thankfully.
It’s funny. Even though I’ve birthed three babies and gotten them through babyhood all the way to adulthood, there’s always a ton more to learn and a lot of wise people (and babies) to learn from.
As I sat on Sarah’s couch and tried to cool down, drank my ice water and told Josiah we’d try the walk again- maybe after the oil change man and his clapping wife were gone- I thought about this business of teaching and learning and needing a village. It reminded me of Sunday.
Sunday was Baptism Day for Josiah, and it was also World Communion Sunday, which was nice. A methodist church and a episcopal church had gathered to worship together with the lutheran church where Sarah and Paul and Josiah are members. It was beautiful, as I knew it would be. My daughter and son-in-law stood before the congregation and promised to bring Josiah to the word of God, to nurture him in faith and prayer, so that he will proclaim Christ through word and deed, care for others and the world God made, and work for justice and peace. His godparents made promises and we in the pews made promises too, to support him and pray for his new life in Christ.
After the pastor poured the water over his sweet little head, I thought the best part of the morning was done. I was wrong.
It was time for communion. The methodist minister with long curly hair gave the bread, and as I approached the front of the line, she raised it before me, like a moon, perfectly round, ascending the sky. “The body of Christ, given for you,” she said. I dipped it in the wine and found my way back to my seat, but I couldn’t stop watching, seeing the moon rise before each soul, announcing the gift given to them.
They were all so beautiful, these strangers lined up, who had prayed for my grandson as they would for any baby or any adult. There was an old man with a bandage on his ear, leaning on another old man, making his way in a shuffle; there were old women hanging on to each other, too, tired looking mothers, excited children, people with pink hair and blue hair and dangly earrings. There were couples holding hands and people looking distinctly alone. There were folks in fancy clothes and others in old clothes, all cupping their hands before them like children, and the minister gently laid a round in each of them, as if she were putting Jesus to bed there. And as they dipped the bread in the wine and put it in their mouths, I could imagine the moon broken into holy stardust, making its way to the deepest part of them.
And then something even more beautiful happened. I thought they were done, but the three ministers moved together to the teenage boy in the wheelchair. His grandmother, who was in the choir, had pushed him to his regular spot at the far end of the front row at the beginning of the service and now she came to his side. I watched as she rocked the chair back and the minister held the moon in front of him and said the magic love words. The grandma whispered that he couldn’t eat it and the minister apologized. She moved aside as the grandmother dipped her finger in the wine and brushed it on the boy’s lips. We all watched (or at least I did) as she put her arms around him, looked into his eyes, and whispered words of God’s love for him. I felt my eyes tear as she wiped his mouth and kissed his cheek and whispered her own love into his ears. Then she set him upright and returned with the merry threesome to the platform where the pastors held the wafer before each other, rising it above the cup, like the moon and the sea.
Why go to church? people ask.
This is why.
I need to be in a place where we help carry each other to God. Where there are people who have lived with God through pain and suffering and joy, where we can ask big questions and struggle side by side through scripture, listening for God. Where we can sit with other broken people and feed each other.
I’m so happy that Josiah has that. And I’m happy I do too!
Thank you for being part of my village. Peace be with you!
Oh, one more thing… Before you go, know that I finally did get that stroller figured out. This is Josiah after we strolled all the way to McDonalds so Grandma could get a latte and try to compose herself. He looks a little unimpressed. But thanks, Youtube! The oil change man and his happy clappy wife hung around so long that I finally had to swallow my pride and wrestle again in front of them. So yay for lessons in humility. I suppose they count as my teachers too. It’s a virtue, I guess.